| Ranked No. 232 Mark Tullo was a surprise leader after the first day of the Scottish Open [GALLO/GETTY]
Second-ranked Lee Westwood and unheralded Chilean Mark Tullo took advantage of benign early conditions to share the lead with superb 7-under rounds of 65 on the opening day of the Scottish Open on Thursday.
Westwood, who will regain the No. 1 ranking off fellow Englishman Luke Donald with a win at the new links course at Castle Stuart, made six birdies and an eagle in the warmup event for next week's British Open. A bogey at the16th hole was his only setback.
Tullo, ranked No. 232 and in his first season on the European Tour, birdied his first four holes and then five of the back nine to later join Westwood at the top of the leaderboard, a shot clear of three players - South Africa's George Coetzee, Sweden's Peter Hanson and Denmark's Thorbjorn Olesen.
"I like playing the week before a major because I like being competitive and the aggression of making putts when you have to make them. The more pressure I'm under this week the better, I think," said Westwood, the winner of the tournament in 1998 when it was played at Loch Lomond.
The early starters had the better of the conditions, with a moderate wind picking up slightly in the afternoon.
Of the leading five players, only Olesen teed off after midday.
Monty mounts challenge
A host of big names shot 5-under 67s, including Donald, defending champion Edoardo Molinari of Italy and former Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie - who needs a top-five finish to stand a chance of claiming the one available qualifying spot for the British Open for the leading non-exempt player.
That would enable him to make a 22nd straight appearance in his home major.
"It's a tournament I've loved - and finished second in - and I want to play again in it, I really do,'' Montgomerie said of the Open, which is at Royal St. George's.
"It's a tournament I've loved - and finished second in - and I want to play again in it, I really do"
Colin Montgomerie talking about the British Open
Tullo, who fired a stunning 10 birdies in total, also still has to qualify for the third major of the year and could wreck Montgomerie's hopes.
Sixth-ranked Phil Mickelson posted a 1-over 73, leaving the American an uphill task to end his tournament drought in Britain, but 2010 U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell and three-time major winner Padraig Harrington both carded afternoon 69s to be in contention.
Two-time winner Ernie Els had a 68 and fellow South African Retief Goosen, a two-time U.S. Open champion, was one of the 13 players on 5 under.
Westwood hasn't finished outside the top 11 in his last five events - including the Masters and U.S. Open - and he continued his superb form with a near-flawless round starting on the back nine.
"When I play well, I'm in contention now. When I don't play well, it seems to be that I still finish in the top 20," said Westwood.